Senate debates

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Vaccination, JobKeeper Payment

3:59 pm

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's interesting to hear the government talk about confidence, because in Cairns there is no confidence in this government. We know that the member for Leichhardt sits in the government party room. We know that the Treasurer and the minister for tourism visited Cairns. So maybe those three men would like to have a quiet word with the senators opposite and the members of the government party room, because in Cairns there is no confidence in this government. When they come in here and talk about how great everything is going, it shows how out of touch they are with the reality of what people in Far North Queensland are facing right now.

People in Far North Queensland are listening to the words said in this place. They heard that the government promised four million vaccines by the end of March. They also heard that we would be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Well, it took two questions from Senator Gallagher over here the other day to find out that we will not be fully vaccinated by October. Why does that matter? Why does it matter that the government made promises and are not going to meet them? Nobody forced them to make these promises. Nobody forced them to make these commitments. Why does it matter? Well, the government have also said that international travel will return in October, in line with the vaccination program. There are people in my community who are listening to the promises the government is making about delivering four million vaccines, about making sure that all Australians are fully vaccinated by October, and they are planning their financial security and economic security around these promises. That's why it matters.

In 11 days 8,000 workers in Cairns will lose JobKeeper. Cairns has the highest number of JobKeeper recipients of any postcode outside the big cities and their suburbs. I've heard the argument today from ministers answering questions that JobKeeper was always supposed to be temporary and targeted. Well, in terms of targeting, wouldn't you think that targeting JobKeeper and extending JobKeeper to one of the hardest hit communities in our country would be a good thing for this government to do? Absolutely, it would. But the government are not doing that. Instead, they've come up with some haphazard scheme—a scheme that they don't even have the details on yet. They haven't actually decided whether it's a cap, whether it's demand or what destinations will be on that list. The program to take the place of JobKeeper isn't even thought out, yet JobKeeper will be cut in 11 days.

We've heard a lot from those opposite about what Labor is saying, but the tourism operators in Cairns have made many comments since the Morrison government made its so-called aviation announcement and in the lead-up to JobKeeper. Tony Baker, the managing director of Quicksilver, said that continued government support was needed to survive:

Anything that encourages visitors is great, but we still need some form of ongoing wage subsidy.

On the federal government's aviation package, Perry Jones from Ocean Free sums up the concerns that many have: 'On 1 April if there is no-one on that boat there's no wages coming in.' Of the half-price flight scheme, he said, 'The only problem is that it doesn't mean they're going to be on my boat.'

This is what these two tourism operators are saying publicly. What they are saying privately is that they have been left behind by this government, that they have no confidence in this government to deliver the vaccination rollout in the time line that they promised. No-one forced the government to make those promises, but they can't even live up to them. These operators are saying privately that they are terrified they are going to lose their jobs and they are going to lose their businesses. It is a major concern for people who have listened to what this government has said on the promises on vaccinations—four million vaccinations by the end of March, and fully vaccinated by the end of October. This government is not delivering on its promises.

Question agreed to.


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